The buzz has died down now, but when Maze & Nobu opened with the One & Only hotel, everybody was talking about it. There were mixed reviews, ranging from fantastic to very average but they all agreed on one thing, it was expensive. For that reason I decided to wait until somebody invited me there, rather than use my rent money.
Recently, I unexpectedly received an invite from Maze to come and review them. I don’t normally accept invitations to review as I prefer to share an experience that would be the same as a normal diner would have. When reviewing under invitation they are expecting you, so the service is always great, the food top class and because you’re not paying, you can perhaps enjoy aspects of the menu and wine list which would ordinarily be out of reach. It is also difficult to evaluate value for money, as you’re not paying.
Anyway, I wanted to experience Maze and this was my chance so I took it. As the reader, you know the circumstances and can take them into account. So here is my experience…
I was meeting my dining partner for cocktails at the Vista Bar before dinner but somehow lost track of time and found myself running late. Thank goodness for the valet parking at the One & Only, not having to find parking and then walk to the hotel saved me about ten minutes which meant I was on time. I had a few minutes to spare so the barman kept me entertained by telling about their interesting cocktail menu. They have several cocktail ‘evolutions’. You can choose a cocktail and have the original, the present trend and their future interpretation. It sounded exciting so I selected the mojito and my partner selected the daquiri. I can say that the Vista bar at the One & Only might serve the best cocktails in Cape Town. The original of each was excellent, the present versions were also very good and while the futuristic ones were perhaps not as nice, they were really interesting, the daquiri involved flames and melting marshmallow and the mojito had basil infused foam. For those who enjoy good quality cocktails I would definitely recommend the Vista Bar. Prices ranged from R40 to R70 per cocktail.
Also, I must warn you that consuming three cocktails in one hour is not good for your sobriety. We were definitely in a good mood as we made our way over to Maze. After being greeted and seated by the hostess, we took in our surroundings. As with the rest of the hotel, Maze is certainly imposing. It’s a large restaurant, with high ceilings and oversized light fittings. It has a very modern, avante garde look which they have got right for the most part. Like many before me, I did find the carpet a bit over the top. We were offered menus but accepted the offer of the chef’s tasting menu, six courses paired with wines.
While we waited for the first course, we were offered bread which was possibly some of the best bread I’ve been offered in a restaurant. I opted for the peppadew roll which was awesome. My partner went for sourdough bread which she also thought was amazing. The butter was not hard, which I appreciated. Such a small thing but it’s quite irritating when you have to try and manipulate uncooperative butter onto your bread.
The courses and wines were as follows:
Cold carrot and orange soup (Groote Post Sauvignon Blanc)
Yellowfin tuna carpaccio with orange rind (Constantia Uitsig Semillon)
Terrine of foie gras, mushrooms and parma ham (Bouchard Finlayson Pinot Noir)
Norwegian Salmon and pork belly (The Foundry Viognier)
Karan beef fillet with a wedge of braised wagyu beef cheek. with broad beans, peas and carrots (Rijk’s Shiraz)
Dessert platter with nougat ice cream, cherry sorbet, chocolate orange souffle, champagne and marinated apricots and a macaroon (I don’t recall the dessert wine but it was imported)
The pairings were excellent. I didn’t like the carrot and orange soup (reminded me of carrot juice which I don’t like), but I had three spoonsful. One to taste it, one to try the pairing and another because the pairing was so good. I really couldn’t fault the pairing at all, every wine and dish complemented each other very well. A nice feature is that you can have a normal portion of wine (150ml) or a small taster portion (50ml) which is perfect for a meal like this otherwise you just drink too much (especially after those cocktails!). The smaller servings of wine are around R20 each which makes it a lot less expensive too.
The presentation was good, some dishes being served on ’tiles’ and attention having been paid to colour combinations. The service was of a high standard and the waiter happily obliged and brought us glasses of tap water after we eschewed the bottled water on environmental grounds (we’re both greenies). And as for the food, it doesn’t quite live up to expectations. There were certainly some elements of greatness, for instance the terrine was excellent, the Norwegian Salmon and pork belly were an interesting combination and very tasty. The sample of braised wagyu beef cheek was sublime, and the nougat ice cream and chocolate orange souffle were awesome.
But overall, I just wasn’t that impressed. I can’t comment on the soup, neither of us liked it. The tuna carpaccio was completely dominated by the rind, our fillets were done to different degrees, one medium rare and the other rare and neither of us had specified any preference. The beans and peas together created a heavy flavour which made its presence felt.
I guess it comes down to value. If someone from Europe had this meal, they would probably be quite happy in terms of value, but probably unimpressed in terms of the level of the food. For a local, R600 for the food alone creates an expectation which is not met. The impressive space, vast winelist and good service do justify a premium, but not that much of a premium. Having experienced Rust en Vrede, I would rather eat there and be blown away by every course.
It’s important to remember that we did not order a la carte, most people will not go for the chef’s menu with pairings. They do offer a three course limited menu for R200 and the a la carte menu has starters ranging from R50 to R80 and mains from R95 (ostrich) to R160. These are far more reasonable prices and make dining at Maze at least once, for the experience, worth it.
One & Only Hotel, V&A Waterfront
Tel: 021 431 5222